Enzo Amore is currently the hottest thing in professional wrestling, and you can’t teach that. The 29-year-old New Jersey native has only been in the business for four years and he’s made a huge impact, going from being a fan favorite on the WWE’s NXT brand to turning heads as one of the featured performers on the WWE’s long-standing Monday Night Raw show, cutting crowd-pleasing promos and aligning himself with WWE superstars like John Cena and current WWE Women’s Champion Sasha Banks. And while he has a way with words when the mic is in his hand, it’s what’s on Enzo’s feet that have continued to surprise people.
Enzo is the WWE’s most legit in-ring sneakerhead. While there are iconic images of Shane McMahon flying from perilous heights wearing Air Jordan 3s and John Cena wearing sneakers in the ring for years that led to his own signature shoe available at K-Mart, Enzo’s footwear of choice has brought a whole new audience to the WWE.
"It all adds to your character, whether it be visually or verbally, it's just something that people can relate to," Enzo said. "Anybody who's a fan of Jordans and happens to have on the same pair of shoes I'm wearing when I'm in the ring has something to relate to with my character."
The self-proclaimed “Jordan of Jargon” is partnering with Champs Sports to take over the brand’s Snapchat from the backstage of Raw starting on August 29 for a campaign dubbed "Monday Night Sneaker Watch."
"Paying attention to his mic skills, the energy he brings to the WWE, and his love for the Jordan brand, we, at Champs Sports, saw a natural opportunity,” said Patrick Walsh, VP of Marketing Champs Sports.
Since joining the Raw roster, Enzo has made it a point to rock Jordans damn near any time he’s seen on television. Since he’s been on the WWE’s main roster, he’s rocking a different pair every week.
With the WWE making their return to the Barclays for this year’s SummerSlam event on Sunday, August 21, we got a chance to talk kicks with Enzo. Here, he breaks down his history as a sneakerhead, who has the better sneaker game in the WWE locker room, and drops some hints on the fire he’ll be wearing on his feet this Sunday when he and tag team partner Big Cass take on Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens exclusively on the WWE Network.
You’re known for rocking all kinds of Jordans during your matches. Have you ever worn wrestling boots?
It's actually a funny story. I used to wear wrestling boots when I first got signed to the WWE. It was mandatory that each and every single superstar under contract buy and wear boots, or wear amateur wrestling shoes, which are thin cut. It wasn’t a stipulation in our contract or anything, but when you showed up to wrestling school, the head coach would say “Hey do you got your wrestling boots?” So I had to go out and buy wrestling boots, which I had never worn before in my life. I did not feel comfortable in them.
What ended up happening was I had a freak incident where I broke my leg in training in the performance center while wearing wrestling boots. It wasn't so much “Oh, he was wearing wrestling boots,” but in my mind I was like “It's the wrestling boot.”
If you ever looked at the spectrum of people in the company wearing sneakers for a long period of time, it’s only John Cena. When I broke my leg I came to our head coach with a doctor's note that said “Enzo needs to be wearing sneakers when he wrestles because he broke his leg and that's what he feels comfortable in.” Breaking my leg was the be-all, end-all of wrestling boots [for me], and I turned it into an opportunity to capitalize on a market that I am infatuated with. When I came back, the first pair of shoes I wore when I got in the ring was the Ferrari 14 Jordans.
"it was mandatory that each and every single superstar under contract buy and wear boots."
Were you always a sneakerhead or was that something that came about more recently?
I’ve always had an affinity for Michael Jordan. For most people of my era, Michael Jordan was the biggest star in the world of sports. When you’re a little kid you think you put these shoes on and you can jump higher or run faster. As a little kid, my mother always took me to Payless to buy shoes for school every year. I’d get one or two new pairs of shoes going into the year, [but the] other kids started coming to school in Penny Hardaways or Jordans or Gary Paytons and I remember just seeing these things that I couldn’t afford at the time.
In 1998, it was my birthday going into Christmas–I was born in December–and they asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I wanted a pair of Jordans. My parents didn't want to buy them for me, but what ended up happening was I got the “Black Toe” Jordan 14s as a Christmas/birthday present, and I’ve had an affinity for the 14s ever since.
Were there any non-Jordans you got into as you got older and started learning more about sneakers?
I remember the next pair of big time shoes I had–at least what I thought were, and I’m pretty sure they were because I was a Bulls fan growing up–were the Rodmans with the laces that went up the side [the Nike Air Shake Ndestrukt]. I remember I bought those, but I never in my lifetime was able to afford or even manage a collection, so to say. I prioritized more wisely; while I loved sneakers, and used to always paid attention to what was coming out, I never had the money to go out and buy them. Nowadays, I’m pretty notorious for one-and-done’ing Jordans [laughs].
Do you remember what your first big purchase was after becoming a WWE Superstar?
To be fair, a WWE Superstar and an NXT Superstar are one in the same thing to a certain degree because you are working for the company, but the money is slightly different [laughs] so when I was at NXT it wasn't a new pair of Jordans every single time I got in the ring. There were many times when I wore the same Jordans over and over again.
The Ferrari red 14s were the first ones I wore and I got as much use with them in the ring as I could. I also rocked the Nike KDs Longhorn States because they had that print on them.
I actually had to sit on a raffle line to win those Jordans to make sure that I got them.
That’s you, that’s you all day.
Yes! To this day that's the one and only shoe I’ve worn in the ring–outside of the Ferris Bueller SB Dunks–strictly because they’re Nike and had leopard print in them.
Speaking of the leopard print, talk about how you go about setting up your ring attire. You’re coordinated from head to toe—does that come from your love of sneakers or is it more based on your ring persona?
No, 100 percent I am all in on color coordinating my outfits and most of the time they are color coordinated based upon the Js on my feet. The outfit I wore at Battleground was made entirely out of cement print and I wore the Neymar 5s in the ring. Sneaker culture, hoop culture, and the athlete culture–is in me. I played sports my whole life, so it's been one of those things that are second nature to me without even realizing it. I don't even walk out of the house unless my sneakers match my shirt and match my hat.
Gotta be fresh to death. Now, you’re on the Raw brand, and people are seeing you at least once a week on TV (more if there is a pay-per-view that weekend), and you’re still on the road. How many pairs of sneakers do you travel with?
When I first got brought on to the main roster four months ago, I’d be traveling with the Shrine pack. I usually keep two pairs of Js in that and I keep two pairs of Js in my carry-on luggage, then in my check bag I usually kept a couple pairs, maybe one or two still in the box. Now I’ve realized that I’m traveling with way too much weight for no reason, because I only end up wearing one on Monday Night Raw. But back when there would be a pay-per-view, then Raw, and then Smackdown, you had to have three different pairs of Js that were brand new and sometimes I like to give myself options, you know what I mean? Sometimes I'll have an outfit coordinated based on the J or with multiple pairs of Js that will match perfectly and all of a sudden I’m sitting in the locker room before I go out and I’ll have one pair on one foot and another pair on the other foot and I’m looking in the mirror and I can’t make a decision.
I remember the NXT hair versus hair match against Sylvester Lefort and saying to myself “I’m gonna wear Jordans in the ring,” and the brand new Ferrari 14s that just came out. I actually had to sit on a raffle line to win those Jordans to make sure that I got them. I waited online with the civilians to get a raffle number and sure enough I got lucky. I wore them on that episode, and for the hair vs. hair match we had hair removal cream; I poured it all over somebody's head and next thing I know I looked down and my Js were ruined. It was all good, though, because it was worth the experience and it was worth the attention it received. I remember getting tweets from Wale at the time and it became one of those things where the sneaker culture and a lot of people in the hip-hop world were showing love.
Ever since I got to the Raw main roster, I have never worn the same pair of Jordans twice, and I don't think people realize what the canvas in the ring does to a Jordan, especially if it's suede.
Do you ever have dreams of wanting to be an official endorser for Jordan brand in the WWE?
It's not something that’s on my mind. Honestly, I do it for the love of the sneaker and for the culture. For a kid growing up that couldn't afford them to now being able to wear a new pair on TV every week, it's just been of one of those deals where a brand endorsement or something like that is so far out of my mind.
At this point I’m having fun with it. I’m getting to live my dream as a sneakerhead as a pro wrestler and just get in the ring looking fresh to death, week-in and week-out. I try to mix it up the ‘fits and try to keep the sneaker game up to par. There’s certainly weeks where theres Jordans that I wear that are sitting on shelves in stores. Then there’s weeks where I’m wearing Js that people gotta pay $500-$700 for. And I have SummerSlam coming up in New York; it's gonna be interesting to see what my foot game is bringing there.
I had a feeling you had something cooking for Brooklyn.
Oh, of course. I grew up a New York Knicks fan, a New York Giants fan, and a New York Yankees fan, so being in the area for hip-hop culture, sneakers and Jordan, you’re gonna see a little bit of that in my outfit, I assure you. That sneakerwatch is going to be serious. Sneakerheads are going to be scratching their heads like, “Is he really gonna one-and-done those?” It's kind of like Ric Flair back in the day talking about his $2,000 alligator shoes. “I’m having a hard time holding these alligators down.” It's 2016 and they’re not alligator sneakers, they’re Jordan Brand shoes and Enzo is going out and one-and-done’ing them.
"sneakerheads are going to be scratching their heads like 'is he really gonna one-and-done those?'”
Obviously Shane McMahon is doing his thing with sneakers and Kofi is also a big sneakerhead—do you guys talk kicks in the locker room?
For sure. I’ve had discussions with Shane. Every single week when Shane was around before the Smackdown and Raw brand extension, I would see Shane walking down the hallway and stop him to see what’s on his feet and vice versa.
You saw the episode of Raw where Kofi came out wearing the new Steph Currys? That was a collaborative effort of The New Day understanding what they had at hand, and the Twitter universe, ESPN, and everybody was talking about these shoes. On the way to the venue, Kofi stopped at the mall and said “I’m buying these today.” It was just so funny for me to see a huge sneakerhead walk in the locker room that day, open up that box and die laughing.
Based off of that knowledge, who has the iller sneaker game, you or Kofi?
I’m #1 hands down in the business and in the game right now. Shane McMahon might give me a run for my money. First of all he's got some customs that he wore on his feet at WrestleMania this past year that are probably worth more than my collection alone. I think Tinker Hatfield made him a pair of 30s or 31s or something that was custom that he wore. It stops for me at about 14 because I don't really wear much past that.
Yeah, I know a lot of people lose interest in Jordans in the era after Jordan was actually on the court.
People ask me “Do you plan on wearing the new 31s,” and I’m like “Nah, I usually stop around 14.” That’s it for me. If you had to ask me what my favorite Jordans were that I wore in the ring, I would probably go back to those Ferraris. And if I had to top 5 it, I’d probably go with the red Jordan 11Lab4. I wore those in my first ever Monday Night Raw match against the Dudley Boyz in London. That was my wrestling debut shoe. I have since given them to my brother, so I no longer have those. Talk about a lucky guy—I have a little brother who's walking around with the same size foot as me. Could you imagine that?
So everything you one-and-done he pretty much gets?
Oh god, this is kid is living the dream—some sort of fantasy life. He's got the freshest sneaker game and not only does he have the freshest sneaker game, but half of the stuff he's walking around in I can't even imagine what it's worth because I’ve wrestled in em on Raw and kept them pretty clean for that matter.
Gifted, seriously gifted.
Then I’d have to go with the Ferrari 14s. I like the Neymar Jordan 5 Lows that I just wore because I'm a huge fan of the cement print. I love the fact that it has the “10” on the side rather than the “23” that makes it unique to him. Also I think another pair that people would sleep on was the Black Toe 14s with white and black. I got one more for you to complete the top 5 list. I wore the Ferris Bueller SBs on Smackdown when I was cutting a promo but I didn’t wrestle in them. I'm not that stupid. I’ve loved that shoe my whole life and I didn't wanna one-and-done it.
Are there any brands reaching out to you to collaborate?
I’m not working with anyone at this point, there's definitely been plenty of people who have reached out over the past couple months, but usually i put them in contact with the WWE. It is my main goal and priority to be a WWE wrestler. That’s what I am, not so much the shoes on my feet that make me who I am, but it's a great addition. You mentioned something like a Jordan brand endorsement in the future, these are things that just go beyond my control and I tend not to worry about. I just know that I like the Jordans that I wear and I know that there is a majority of our fans that will appreciate that. There's also a niche sneaker community that has taken me under their wing and I think I’ve turned some eyes to pro-wrestling just based off of the sneakers that I'm wearing in the ring which to me was the be-all end-all goal. If I can get you to watch me just one time on Monday Night Raw, I’m gonna try to get you to watch me again. If you are a sneakerhead and somebody tells you “Look at this guy that wears a pair of Jordans every week on Monday night.” and that brings your eyes to our business and our product, that's a win-win for everybody involved.